I often have patients say to me they find their tonic very bitter and my reply to them is that the healing response to the herbs starts in the mouth in the bitter receptors – here is how:
The bitter receptors on the tongue connect to and stimulate the Vagus nerve which then stimulates all of the organs of digestion, including the liver, improving function and tone by increasing digestive secretions and motility. This is why a bitter coffee first thing in morning can help bowel elimination and why digestive aperitifs (think Angastura bitters) are served after a meal. Recently it has been discovered that bitter receptors line the entire digestive tract, not just the tongue.
Indigestion, bloating, burping, constipation, IBS, flatulence, are all signs of digestive weakness. Literally a few drops on the tongue of a very bitter herb such as Gentiana lutea can be enough to improve digestion. Many herbs have digestive principles and I find I need to use them very often in my clinic.
These very simple and abundant dandelion leaves are an example of a bitter herb which can be used in salads before a meal. Taste them and you will recognise immediately the bitter taste I am referring to.
The beginning of the healing starts right at the very beginning of the digestive process, in the mouth. One could easily think that herbs have been made especially for us.